Episode 310, “The Color Blue” Air Date: 10/18/09
First of all, I’m not 100% sure why this episode is called “The Color Blue.” I’d have to go back and do some deep, English-major analysis. Don’s robe-of-secrets was blue, so there’s that. And most of the characters were in their usual malaise.
[Edit: I remember now– Don and Suzanne discussed the idea that it’s hard to know that everyone is agreeing that blue is blue, since we could all be seeing colors differently. In a related note, the other day when I exited a movie theater, the sky looked white for several minutes until my eyes adjusted. It was TRIPPY.]
This week we found out that Teacher-Suzanne (Don’s new f-buddy) is… complicated. And maybe crazy. First of all, her epileptic 25-year-old brother visited mid-sex, and Suzanne forced Don to meet him. The Brother (I don’t remember his name) reminded me of a young Steve Zahn. (But a highbrow, “Mad Men” version of Steve Zahn.)
Later on, Suzanne got her brother (okay, I feel lazy… I looked it up: Danny) a job as a janitor at a hospital in Bedford, Mass. Don offered to drive Danny up there, because it’s a long drive, and sexism and sex and whatever else. I Google Mapped it, for those of us who care. (This is “Mad Men.” Attention must be paid!)
According to Google, that’s three hours at least. It’s crazy to my California mind that you can drive through the entire state of Connecticut in… what? Two hours? Less? I could get in my car and drive for two hours right now, and end up in… nope, still in Los Angeles.
Twenty miles outside of Framingham, Danny tells Don that he has no intention to work at this hospital in Bedford, and Don lets him out. In the middle of NOWHERE. In fact, it’s worse than nowhere. It looks like the opening shot of any movie or TV show where somebody’s about to get attacked in the woods. You could have at least driven Danny to a train station, Don. Or, you know… somewhere with streetlights. Jeebus.
Cole and I wondered how Don was going to explain his early return to Suzanne, but turns out that Framingham’s not that far from Bedford, so… whew. You may wonder why Danny waited so long to ask for Don to pull over and let him out… he was hoping to give Don the slip at a rest stop, action-hero style. Poor Danny. He didn’t even get that moment of glory.
It’s a sad story because Danny’s epilepsy is (supposedly) what’s keeping him down in life, and it goes back to that same uncomfortable feeling that I got when Guy lost everything when he lost his foot. Anyone with a handicap in those days might as well have had REJECT stamped on their forehead. Poor Danny. Poor Guy. (But also, Danny had a huge chip on his shoulder, and I had to wonder how much of his unhappy life was a result of his attitude… it’s a “what came first?” situation.)
Don made mention of wanting to do it right “this time,” and gave his number to Danny, in case he needed help. I’m assuming that this has to do with his own brother. You’ll recall that in Season 1, Don rejected his little Whitman brother, and said brother committed suicide, just before Don decided to reconcile. Oops.
Oh yeah, and Suzanne stalked Don on his train to work, which creeped me out. She’s going to be THAT mistress. Don secretly held her hand for a moment, and that was sweet. But… run, Don. RUN! And Don likes Suzanne’s long curly hair, because nobody has that anymore in 1963. (I have long-ish curly hair, so… I don’t know. Data inconclusive.)
Earlier in the season, Don looked at his Box of Family Mementos (I try not to call it simply “the box,” because that’s gross… well, depending on your Codes of Slang), and I said to Thomas, “Why does he keep them in such a find-able place? What if Betty saw them? Drama!” (I thought they were in a bedroom drawer.) “Nah,” Thomas said. “It’s just photos. Nothing incriminating.” But it turns out that he keeps that box in his Locked Desk Drawer of Secrets (which also contains… wads of cash). And it’s more than photos…
Don had the keys in the pocket of his robe, and Betty happened upon them while doing laundry. (Honestly, I’m surprised she never found them before.) While everything was confusing (for example… photos of Don and his little brother captioned with the name “Dick”) (Dick pics! HAHA!), the most shocking discovery was Don’s divorce papers.
It was a total Holy Shit! moment, especially because… it wasn’t like Peggy’s I-had-Pete’s-baby secret, where we were waiting for that bomb to drop. This bomb dropped out of NOWHERE, because… it’s just kind of a given that Don’s secret are secret secrets.
I mean, those of us who watched Season 2 know that… this is all a result of Don’s identity-switching, and that Anna Draper was more of a mom-friend to Don. Of course, Betty doesn’t realize that Anna Draper is the REAL Don Draper’s wife, and that the divorce was just a technicality. To Betty, this divorce news is like WHOA. But the bombshell for US is that Betty just hit the tip of an iceberg of lies. Women and children first!
Betty knocked Don’s documents on the floor, then sent Clara away with the kids until dinnertime. She sat with the Box of Secrets, waiting for Don to come home, waiting to confront him. But Don’s busy driving to Bedford, Mass. By the middle of the night it becomes painfully apparent that Don’s not coming home, and Betty locks the Box of Secrets back into the drawer and puts the keys back in Don’s robe. (OMG, the Box of Secrets is actually a WHITMAN’S SAMPLER. Get it? Dick Whitman??) (Or we could call it Pandora’s Box. Either way.)
(OMG: DICK IN A BOX!)
So now there are secrets on top of secrets. You know, the usual. And I totally called Betty finding those pictures and WTF-ing over them, so I win a free… nothing. I win nothing.
Speaking of secrets, young Sally answered the phone and got a hang-up, and Don and Betty both thought it was a secret call for them. Betty called Henry Francis to check and got a “You don’t need to make up excuses to call me,” so I’m guessing it was Suzanne, who denied it, but is showing stalking tendencies. (Or maybe it was Anna Draper. Wild card!) (Or maybe… just a wrong number.)
Clara-the-maid (and de facto mother to Sally & Bobby) is the omniscient observer at the Draper residence, and she must be a champion behind-your-back eye-roller, because Betty and Don are so… secrets and lies. Also: Clara goes to church every Sunday. Sally’s like, “Why don’t we go to church every Sunday?” and Betty says, “Because we’re all too busy having secret dalliances, and also God loves white people the most.” (She doesn’t say any of that, but I think the latter is implied.)
Meanwhile at Sterling Cooper: The company is preparing for its huge 40th Anniversary Banquet (at Connie Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria, of course), at which Don will be receiving an award and giving the keynote speech.
Lane Pryce’s wife hates NYC and wants to go back to London, and maybe she will: St. John (MR. SHEFFIELD!) tells Pryce that the Brits are selling Sterling Cooper. He tells his wife, and in my book wins the best award possible: Nicest and Most Honest Spouse. (Earlier, when Mrs. Pryce shows up at the office in tears and out of cash after a terrible taxi ride, Pryce does his best to comfort her, and even asks to see her gown. Awww.) (Oh, and Mrs. Pryce hates Pryce’s assistant, smarmy Mr. Hooker. Points for her! When Pryce rehearsed his speech, Hooker called it “rousing.” GROSS!)
Other Sterling Cooper news: Don’s contract is finalized, and he gets a $5000 bonus. He’s probably going to stuff that into the Drawer of Secrets, too.
Oh yeah, totally thematic storyline: Peggy and Paul Kinsey work on a Western Union campaign. For telegrams. (Do telegrams even exist anymore?) (It’s Peggy and Paul’s fault!) Paul is mad at Peggy for being a woman, and for doing an awesome job on her feet of thinking up a better idea than Paul’s during Paul’s improv-skit presentation of an Aqua Net commercial (ha!). (My aunt claims to have met a woman named Aquanetta, which is… amazing.)
So Peggy and Paul stay late to work separately (but equally?) on Western Union ideas. Peggy burps into her dictaphone (whatever that thing’s called) and apologizes to her secretary. Paul drinks a whole bottle of… who knows? Hard liquor. He exits his office in the wee morning, hollering for Peggy, and I’m REALLY glad she already left, because… he took off his belt. Anything you can imagine him doing next with/to Peggy is creepy.
Instead Paul finds a late-night janitor named Achilles. (As in, heel? Thematic!) He inquires about the strange name, and Achilles starts telling a story about how it’s a family name, and whenever anybody says, “Achilles!” at a family party, all the men turn around. Paul, self-centered dick that he is, cuts off the story and goes back to his office to stomp his feet in joy because he just thought of the BEST IDEA EVER.
Of course the next day his secretary shakes him awake on his couch, and he has no record of his Great Idea, other than… it was Great. I’m willing to bet major money that it was only great because he was craaaaaazy drunk. A couple of times I’ve woken up from a “brilliant” dream, jotted it down, and when I wake up in the morning and read it… whaaat? It usually says something like, “Love is difficult, strange. Golf, hamsters– metaphor.”
Paul retraces his steps, to no avail. He ends up bringing zilch to the table with Peggy and Don, and Peggy convinces him to tell Don what happened. Of course, “I should have written it down” leads to a brilliant idea (from Don & Peggy, because Paul… whatever), because telegrams are all about writing something down and keeping it (Don mentions that a significant telegram could be “framed”… interesting, if you think of the other meaning of “framed” vis a vis Don’s secret documents), vs. a telephone conversation, which can be forgotten. (And now we have emails and IMs and all that… I guess that’s your modern telegram.)
They build off of a Chinese proverb that Paul quotes: “The faintest ink is better than the best memory.”
So, given that storyline, it’s fascinating how much of this week’s episode has to do with phone calls (the anxiety-inducing hang-up at the Drapers, Betty’s call with Henry, Pryce’s phone conversation with London) and with written documents (Don’s contract and the evidence in his locked drawer… the photos, the divorce papers, etc).
The write it down vs. remember it theme goes even further, because Cooper is looking at old pictures of the men of Sterling Cooper, and we see that Sterling’s mother is losing her memory. In the car to the gala, she forgets that Sterling is married to Jane now. “Does Mona know?” she asks, concerned.
PS Does anyone remember how sweet Paul seemed in Season 1? When he was trying to romance Peggy? (Although in retrospect, that was kind of creepy.) He turned out to be a dick-and-a-half, even if he does support progressive ideas. Too pretentious! Shield your eyes!
I didn’t remember Pete being at the episode at all, but apparently he was at the gala. What a cute couple! I love Trudy.
Betty tried to get out of going to the gala (feigned illness), but Don wanted to show her off. (Some websites are saying that Betty’s dress was blue, but I saw it as primarily green. Which goes back to that whole “is blue blue” question. It all ties together!) It’s funny because she doesn’t even understand what she found. But she knows that she knows less about Don than she realized. Who IS this man that she’s sharing her life with? Who was he before? (Also, divorce was more taboo back then, so there’s that, too.)
Sterling introduces Don to the crowd, and it must be killing him. Earlier in the episode he expressed his annoyance in celebrating Don, pointing out that he plucked Don from the obscurity of fur sales. He refers (again?) to the idea that Don and Betty look like the wax figures on a wedding cake. (Metaphor!) Also, we find out that Sterling’s FATHER is the Sterling in Sterling Cooper. That explains a LOT, from Sterling’s relative youth (compared to Cooper) to why the Brits see him as inconsequential. He’s the prince, not the king.
Don and Sterling do a good job pretending to be friends, because everybody in this world is pretending everything, anyway. It’s easy for them to fake it. (Except for Pryce and his wife. Foreigners!) (Ironic that the Brits are more demonstrative than the Americans, don’t you think?)
Oh yeah, and Pryce convinced Cooper to go to the gala by appealing to Cooper’s vanity. Which surprised me a little, because Cooper’s so crazy (like a fox!), I didn’t realize that he cared what other people think. I mean, he walks around in socks and hangs tentacle-rape pictures in his office. But… people are complicated. So… there you go.
Next week: Joan and Dr. Greg. When oh when will we see Big Gay Sal again? Is he licking his wounds on Fire Island, or what?
Also… what’s going to happen in the finale? It was mid-October this week (so… our real-life calendar was in sync with “Mad Men”… like two ships passing in the night). It would make sense that the finale would be Sterling’s daughter’s wedding and the Kennedy assassination.
Will Betty confront Don about his secrets by the end of the season? Or will she just lock them into the Secret Drawer of her SOUL, and have a “tawdry” affair with Henry Francis?
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